For anyone who is following the MLB regular season in the midst of the NBA playoffs, the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs are off to a slow start this season. The Cubs are 6-6 right now, and while that isn’t much to be concerned about in a 162-game season, I wanted to cover an underlying issue for the Cubs as to why they didn’t come in dominating.
Before I start, the Chicago Cubs are built for a dynasty. They are still young, they have a championship under their belt, they retained most of their players from last year, and they have the best manager in the world in Joe Maddon. The Cubs are still my favorite to win it all again this year. There is no doubt the Cubs can turn it around, shoot for 100 wins, and repeat as champions. But before that starts, they have to turn it around.
The Cubs must first come to the realization this is NOT last year’s team. They retained much of the same players, yes, but it is a different year. The demise of many champions, in any sport, have been when they believe in their own hype. They put trust in their talent, let that compromise for work ethic, and walk away from the season empty handed. We see it so many times in sports, it is no longer a funny story. So once Chicago realizes they still have to put in the work to try and get back to the World Series, which is no guarantee, then and only then will the Cubs have a fighting chance to turn this ship around.
Once they realize this is a new baseball season and there are other respectable teams vying for the same goal, the Cubs will be able to take their competition seriously and begin to put a higher number in the win column.
Rather than this being just a mental issue, the Cubs have more to fix. The Cubs have more technical issues to tend to. The Chicago Cubs bullpen is a mess.
The Cubs bullpen has been awful and needs to be addressed. The bullpen is responsible for four of the six Chicago Cubs losses, and only responsible for one Cubs win. They have posted a 4.19 ERA, which ranks 17th in the majors. The Cubs bullpen has allowed 22 walks in just twelve games this season, sixth-most in the league. When you realize the Cubs bullpen has only been on the mound for 38.2 innings, less than the league average, and have given up that many walks, there’s a problem.
Bullpens can be different from year to year. Pitchers can be different from year to year. One season, they might be feeling it the entire way. The next, they might be struggling to control their pitches or handle the mental pressure of coming in late in games. The Cubs need to monitor this, and if things don’t begin to get better, the front office will need to look into improving this area before the trade deadline. I have no doubts they will if necessary, considering that is in Theo Epstein’s DNA. Remember the Aroldis Chapman deal at last year’s deadline? Epstein doesn’t think twice about making the necessary deals to improve his team’s weaknesses.
On a brighter note, the Cubs twitter announced that CJ Edwards is coming back after being activated from the bereavement list. The Cubs are hoping Edwards will be enough to propel this bullpen, but I would not be so sure. While Edwards at 25 years of age is incredibly talented, I wouldn’t expect his return to suddenly boost the Cubs bullpen.
Other than the bullpen, I do not have any concerns for the Chicago Cubs going forward. Once again, the Cubbies are my pick to go all the way this season. But if the bullpen goes unchecked, and it becomes too late to do so, then the concern will deepen as that could make or break a team’s season. I don’t expect it to be too long until the Cubs address these issues and move forward, and well beyond the .500 mark.